The High 48s ride the train

The High 48s, a Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, band formed in 2006, is working on an album of train songs with funding for the project coming from a successful Kickstarter campaign. This will be their fifth album project.

They are a five-piece band made up of Rich Casey (bass), Eric Christopher (fiddle and vocals), Chad Johnson (mandolin and vocals), Marty Marrone (guitar and lead vocals) and Anthony Ihrig (banjo). In 2008 they won the prestigious RockyGrass Bluegrass Band Competition in Lyons, Colorado.

Here’s a video introduction…


The High 48s have been rehearsing for this album for the last couple of months and have already incorporated some new songs into their set lists.

Eric Christopher speaks excitedly about the venture …

Eric Christopher“… we are working on an album of train songs, both originals and covers, and we are very excited about it.

The idea for the album started with a song our banjo player Anthony Ihrig wrote called Great Northern Railroad. It’s a song about his grandfather who lived in Saint Paul and worked for Great Northern back in the day and had sort of a rough life. It’s a story and a song that people seemed to really connect with at our live shows (and it was a selection for the songwriter’s showcase last year at IBMA), so it got us thinking more about train songs. 

In the van on our way to gigs, we would try to think of all the train songs we knew, looking for the ones that hadn’t been covered as much as, say, Wabash Cannonball and , or songs that really spoke to us on a personal level. And that’s really where the idea for an entire record of train songs took shape.

And of course our band name comes from old railroad slang for the “40 and 8” boxcars that were used to carry troops to the front lines in World War I (there’s more background on that on our website here), so maybe we were just destined to do this album!

So, our working title for the record is Great Northern Railroad, and our song list so far is ..

    • Great Northern Railroad and That Train Has Left the Station by Anthony Ihrig
    • Leavin’ Train by Robin and Linda Williams
    • Baltimore and Ohio by Becky Schlegel
    • Notch 8 (fiddle tune) by Eric Christopher
    • Grand Junction and The Train Carryin’ Jimmie Rodgers Home by Greg Brown
    • A Memory Like Mine by Darrell Scott
    • Two Trains by Muddy Waters
    • Smoke Along the Tracks by Stonewall Jackson

We’re going to Nashville in January to record the album with Randy Kohrs at Slack Key Studio and are planning on a late February/early March release date.”

You can follow the band online.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.